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Bengals players don’t want to ‘let down coach Lewis’ in contract year

Bengals players are finding motivation to win in 2017 to help their head coach receive another contract extension.

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

2017 is the final year of Marvin Lewis’ current contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. The expectation is the team will not extend him before the 2017 season, breaking tradition in Cincinnati.

If Lewis and the Bengals do well this season, the team would likely re-sign him. But if not, the team would face its first change at head coach in a decade and a half. Bengals players, however, do not want to see that happen and are finding more motivation to win on Lewis’ behalf.

“I think everybody knows what’s at stake,” veteran cornerback Adam Jones told Cincinnati.com. “First, we don’t want to let down ourselves and our families and we definitely don’t want to let down coach Lewis.”

Being a lame duck coach in the NFL is extremely rare. Lewis has done it once, which was in 2010, an abysmal 4-12 season for the Bengals. Somehow, after that, the team signed Lewis to a two-year extension. Since then, Lewis has received one-year extensions in 2012, 2015 and 2016 as well as a two-year extension in 2013.

After last year’s 6-9-1 season, Lewis is seemingly on the thinnest ice he’s been on, though a playoff season in 2017 could give the Bengals all the reason they need to give him another extension.

“If you’re winning everything is good,” Jones said. “If you have one bad year, you should get everybody out of here. So, we just gotta stay true to ourselves and worry about the things we can control and let everything else play itself out.”

However, as nice as the Bengals’ motivation is to win for their coach, it is a sentiment fans wish would be present every year. There is no guarantee anyone will stick around any season, so why can’t this be the mindset every year?

“We all have to perform whether it’s Marvin or whether it’s us as players,” Clint Boling said. “He could easily be fired with one year left on a deal just as easily as we could be cut with multiple years left on our deal. So it’s like anything else – you have to perform and the rest of the stuff just kind of takes care of itself.”

The Bengals have seemed to be entirely opposed to firing Lewis, but if they’re going to move on from him, it will likely be because the end of his deal comes without a new deal set in place. Though you’d think moving on from a coach would be just like moving on from a player who doesn’t perform up to the Bengals’ standards, that hasn’t really seemed to be the case in Cincinnati with Lewis, the NFL’s second longest tenured coach. In Lewis’ 15 years in Cincinnati, the Bengals have failed to win a single playoff game, which is a remarkably bad feat.

“The main thing is whether he is re-upped or not, we still go out and do our job,” Kevin Huber said. “We’re all in the same situation. We have to play for our own contract. That’s obviously nice if you have your head coach stable and obviously we would love to keep having him as coach, we love him, but I think for us it’s more important to focus on what we’ve got to do on the field rather than worry if he’s going to get a new contract or not.”

We all know coach Lewis and the Bengals would much rather the team focus on winning for the sake of winning, rather than winning for Lewis to keep his job.

“That’s what he’s going to want us to do to. He’s not going to want us to worry about him,” Huber said. “He wants us to do our job and worry about us and make sure we do what we need to do to win.”

Lewis has lasted as a head coach in the NFL for 14, going on 15 years by focusing on what’s best for his players, and his mindset isn’t changing now.

“He doesn’t talk about contracts. He doesn’t talk about his situation,” Dalton said. “It’s all about having a good year.”

Still, Bengals players want to do right by their coach. The best way to do that is to turn things around in 2017 and show the Bengals’ management Lewis’ presence is still enough to foster a winning environment.

“I know as far as a group we love coach and we’re all in here working toward one thing,” Jones said, “which is winning.”